There is no time or cost framework yet for the proposed pilot project by Sasol and Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) to develop a green hydrogen mobility corridor, says the local arm of the Japanese car maker.
“We have just started this exploration, hence no time and cost information may be made available at this juncture.
“We will be able to communicate the time frames, in due course, as the project progresses further into the future.”
TSAM, responding to questions from Engineering News Online, says the initial focus is to study how it may introduce hydrogen technology into South Africa, “but this will be guided by our principal in Japan”.
“We will take the lead from Toyota Motor Corporation – Japan – as to what products will be made available to South Africa."
Toyota announced last year that it has developed a second-generation hydrogen fuel-cell system to power heavy-duty trucks.
It is based on the fuel-cell system the car maker launched in the new-generation, 2021 Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell electric passenger car.
Under the current testing regime, the second generation fuel-cell system delivers more than 480 km of range on a truck with a load weight of 36 t.
Sasol and TSAM last week formally announced the formation of the partnership to jointly pursue the development of a proof-of-concept demonstration for a green hydrogen mobility ecosystem.
The partnership is partly based on Sasol’s experience in the production, use and marketing of grey hydrogen, as well as its aspiration to play a leading role in the establishment of a green hydrogen economy for South Africa.
Grey hydrogen is hydrogen produced using fossil fuels. Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced using renewable energy.
The parties said they intended to develop a mobility corridor and expand this demonstration to a pilot project using one of South Africa’s main freight corridors, such as the N3 route between Durban and Johannesburg, for hydrogen-powered heavy-duty long-haul trucks.
This process includes the possible installation of a hydrogen refuelling station.
To enable the project, the parties would also have to pursue the introduction of a fuel-cell truck into South Africa.
Current research shows that long-distance mobility is better suited to fuel-cell technology than battery electric trucks, which operate better over shorter distances.
The only problem is that there are currently no Toyota fuel-cell trucks available to introduce into South Africa, as they are still in prototype development in Japan.
TSAM says it has, however, started investigating the introduction of a fuel-cell truck to South Africa as soon as it becomes available from its principals in Japan.
While TSAM will lead the investigation into the introduction of a fuel-cell truck, Sasol will look at providing the required infrastructure expertise.
“We are excited about the partnership with Sasol, which we hope will assist in scaling up investment in critical infrastructure, such as charging stations and the fuel itself,” said TSAM president and CEO Andrew Kirby.
The TSAM-Sasol project may, however, require the expansion of the partnership to include other companies and stakeholders along the hydrogen mobility value chain.
This is to allow local industry to gain valuable first-hand knowledge of hydrogen refuelling stations, the introduction of hydrogen into heavy-duty truck supply chains and the commercial drivers underpinning the hydrogen mobility value chain.
“To unlock green hydrogen opportunities, we are pursuing various demonstration opportunities and partnerships, as with Toyota, with the intent of enabling and taking advantage of technology developments and breakthroughs,” noted Sasol president and CEO Fleetwood Grobler last week.
“One of the focus areas for Sasol in South Africa is to provide a comprehensive and sustainable mobility solution. Hydrogen and electric vehicles with refuelling and charging infrastructure form part of this sustainable future.
“We believe hydrogen mobility is a real opportunity for the country to decarbonise the sectors of long-haul and heavy-duty transport, mining and others, and see the creation of hydrogen hubs, or ecosystems, as a practical and affordable way to scale the deployment of hydrogen in the transport sector.
“Our partnership with Toyota, which will include other partners over time, aims to build a sustainable end-to-end infrastructure for hydrogen mobility, initially focused on piloting the concept.”
Kirby echoed this sentiment, noting that Toyota envisaged this partnership to also create the environment for others to get involved in the hydrogen mobility value chain, “thereby making sustainable contributions to the South African economy”.
At the launch of the new-generation Mirai last year, Toyota CTO Masahiko Maeda said that sales were not the automotive company’s immediate focus.
“Instead, Toyota has a larger target of contributing to the realisation of a carbon-neutral society.
“Toyota would like to make it easier for as many people as possible to use hydrogen in their daily lives. The potential of hydrogen to help achieve a future zero-emission society … is generating fast growing interest and investment globally.”
Grobler noted last week that South Africa was endowed with exceptional renewable energy resources, making the country ideal for green hydrogen production, which had the potential to contribute to energy security and trade for South Africa, while facilitating the transition to a lower carbon economy.
“The new hydrogen economy will be enabled by co-creating hydrogen ecosystems developed through partnerships. The creation of value chain partnerships will be critical to enable South Africa to be globally competitive in the green hydrogen markets.
“Through these partnerships the country needs to build capacity in key elements of the green hydrogen value chain such as renewable energy, electrolyser technology, fuel-cell technology, manufacturing, hydrogen-based industrial processes, and sustainable carbon sourcing.”